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FCC Reaffirms Starlink Funding Denial: A Balanced Evaluation

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The FCC recently reaffirmed a decision that denied Starlink the opportunity to receive public support through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program. Confirming an earlier decree, the decision was communicated via an official statement on December 12, tied to the release of an Order on Review.

FCC Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, announced the FCC had carried out a scrupulous legal, technical, and policy examination before reaching the decision. “This applicant had failed to meet its burden to be entitled to nearly $900 million in universal service funds for almost a decade,” she claimed.

The Wireline Bureau initially denied Starlink’s application in August 2022. Despite acknowledging the promise of Starlink’s technology, Rosenworcel raised questions. She asked whether it was prudent to subsidize Starlink’s developing technology, which demands customers purchase a $600 dish, with an infusion of nearly $900 million in universal service funds until 2032.

Starlink, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., had initially won a whopping $885,509,638.40 in the December 2020 auction before being disqualified, as stated by the FCC.

The recent FCC announcement delved into the applicant selection process for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program. “If applicants receive a winning bid, the process is followed by an in-depth, long-form application used to verify that applicants meet the program requirements based on the specific coverage locations,” the announcement outlined. It also highlighted that while Starlink passed the short form stage, they failed to validate their ability to deliver the promised service during the long form stage.

Starlink promotes its services as a provider of high-speed internet, marketed towards subscribers in remote areas, who they can reach using satellites in low-Earth orbit that can deliver broadband.

Increasing scrutiny and regulatory requirements in the telecommunications sector are a clear indicator of the efforts being made to maintain a level playing field. It reiterates the fact that only innovations backed by solid plans and capable of meeting stringent benchmarks will garner support and funding from regulatory bodies like the FCC. For service providers, it’s an unequivocal notice to not just champion innovation, but to do so responsibly by prioritizing customer needs and delivering on promises.

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